Anxious thoughts are often a normal response to a real situation. However if they result in regular, compulsive behaviour they could become a serious issue.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a condition in which sufferers experience uncontrolled mental or physical urges. Obsessions are recurring thoughts, images or feelings that the person knows to be silly or irrational yet they can’t be stopped.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviours triggered by the obsession. They serve to block or neutralise the perceived fear or threat and only give temporary relief. Yet, notphysically doing the compulsive activity can increase anxiety.
OCD is not the same as Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). They share some similarities but have notable differences. OCD is a mental illness associated with anxiety. OCPD is a personality disorder defined by extreme perfectionism and rigid thinking.
People with OCPD may have excessive behaviours but are driven more by the need for perfectionism than a burning desire to prevent catastrophe.
There is no specific cause of OCD however a number of factors can increase the risk of a person developing it.
Biological factors (such as changes in serotonin levels), genetics, environmental influences, stress and strong personality traits are all known to be linked to anxiety and the onset of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It often takes multiple factors to trigger OCD.
A sufferer may have frequent and distressing thoughts, feelings, or nightmare-like mental images. To avoid or block these obsessions they may develop ritualistic behaviours.
Many of us have routines that we follow such as taking the same daily route to work; however OCD is more likely to be diagnosed when these obsessions or compulsions:
OCD symptoms fall into several broad categories.
Sufferers often constantly check things like appliances, locks or even children or they may perform tasks in a precise order. They feel that if they don’t then something terrible will happen.
Counting steps or money may give a brief sense of comfort.
Unrealistic fears of contamination can lead to constant hand-washing or house cleaning.
Obsessive hoarding is a common symptom of OCD and some consider it to be a separate condition. It may fill an emotional void or sense of deprivation.
Some compulsions are spiritual such as praying excessively to neutralise ‘bad’ thoughts or being fixated with the afterlife.
Some obsessions may be quite violent or sexual. These are unlikely to be acted upon as the person generally finds them repugnant.
OCD can affect relationships and self-esteem. Some people develop obsessive thoughts about their body which may lead to other disorders such as eating disorders or Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
These symptoms are only a guide to OCD and do not confirm a diagnosis. If you are worried that you or someone you know may have OCD it is recommended you seek the professional advice.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be effectively managed with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), medication or a combination of both.
Antidepressants are often used to moderate excessive thoughts and behaviours. They are especially effective when used alongside CBT.
Talking to a professional counsellor/therapist is one of the most effective forms of treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Your counsellor may use talking therapies to create a customised program. The most widely used of these is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This is based on the premise that our thoughts govern our behaviour. By changing our thought patterns we can improve our response to challenging situations.
A therapist will help to explore the underlying beliefs that may be causing your condition. Through addressing these negative patterns you can develop new coping strategies to create positive changes in your life.
Mental illness can be frightening and isolating, especially if you are in a depressed or suicidal state. Talking to friends and family may help but having the support and guidance of a professional counsellor is usually more beneficial. Therapy sessions are confidential and non-judgemental. Seeking help early gives you a greater chance of overcoming your condition and getting your life back to normal.
Our directory lists hundreds of psychotherapists, psychologists, counsellors and other therapists from around Australia. These mental health experts offer counselling over the phone and online in addition to one-on-one consultations. Many also offer workshops and seminars.
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